Galaxy Railways Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98/34.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Galaxy Railways

Galaxy Railways Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     July 22, 2005
Release Date: July 19, 2005


Galaxy Railways Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
The new series from legendary creator Leiji Masumoto (Star Blazers, Captain Herlock, Galaxy Express 999, Interstella 5555).

Carrying on his deceased father and brother's will, Manabu Yuuki joins the Space Defense Force to protect the safety of the Galaxy Railways. Manabu faces many challenges as he rises from the ranks of the SDF, dealing with accidents, natural disasters, rescue operations and space pirates along all lines of the railway.

The fleet of the Galaxy Railways transports countless galactic citizens from one exotic planet to the next, protected by the SDF, the elite force protecting the Railways Fleet against terrorists, meteor storms, and malicious alien life.

These are the stories of those that travel the Galaxy Railways system and the people that are sworn to protect it. No one knows these stories better than Layla Destiny Shura, the leader of the system with the uncanny ability to see the fates of all those who travel on the Galaxy Railways.

The Review!
Created for the 50th Anniversary of Matsumoto's works, Galaxy Railways is the series that takes some of his best and most beloved characters and sprinkles them throughout it.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The included stereo mix does a nice job with the forward soundstage by providing some good directionality there, mostly noticeable with the train going across the screen but also with some good dialogue moments here and there. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Like a number of other recent Matsumoto series, his works seem to look even better in the digital age and this series is no exception. The bold color palette comes across well here with the character designs and is free of a digital gradient problem. Some of the colors, such as some of the grays and light browns, tend to show a bit more blocking going on, but when the show is in full motion it's pretty hard to detect. Aliasing and cross coloration are non-existent and the majority of the blacks from the space scenes look solid and very easy on the eyes.

Packaging:
Though a fairly standard setup, the front cover for the release looks good with the lead character in the center being ringed around by the others who form up the core of the cast in these first five episodes while set against the background of space and the planet from which the Galaxy Railways is based out of. The character designs and uniforms all look solid here and just appeal a lot to me. The back cover continues the dark nature of artwork with a background shot of one of the train launch areas along the top half while the bottom half mixes the summary with a few shots from the show. The discs features, episode and technical information is all generally well placed and easy to find though I do continue to hope that the technical grid will be expanded a bit like other companies. While no insert is included in this release, the cover has artwork on the reverse side of a full length image of the Big One train and the Wataru character.

Menu:
The menu layout combines a few different pieces together, such as the family line for three of the characters as well as the focus on the background being another beautiful planetscape image. It's set to a brief music loop of instrumental work and is overall a decent looking menu but not one that really jumps out at you. The menu layout for languages is nicely done since it avoids the old way of doing things that used to confuse people. Access times are nice and fast but unfortunately the disc did not read our players' language presets properly.

Extras:
The first volume has a surprisingly good number of extras to it. It opens with a video interview with Matsumoto about all sorts of things that he enjoys talking about that runs for about five minutes. A recording session from the Japanese track is included and runs about twelve minutes. Also included is the title announcement press conference for the series with Matsumoto and the senior script writer for it talking about what they wanted to do and their influences which runs just over five minutes. Rounding out the disc, there's a section of character profiles and the textless opening/closing section.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Back when I was first getting into anime and discovering what was out there, one of the big images of the time was the Galaxy Express piece, the one of the train flying through space. It was so unlike what western animation or science fiction was like that it stood out, both in a neat and incredibly corny way, that even though it took nearly another twenty years to see an actual show that had it, it was still something that had struck me early on as an example of what anime was. The normal being used in strange new ways, a new spin on things.

In one of the extras, Matsumoto lays out the reasoning behind the concept and what he wants to achieve with the series. With this show being part of his 50th anniversary material, he talks of how he came to Tokyo all those years ago on the train, just a few years after the devastation of World War 2, and the train system represented a sense of hope in what was otherwise still a lot of destruction and chaos. The feeling of despair and hope are strong themes in his work but the Galaxy Express aspect is one of those that he's played with over the years in a number of ways. With this series, the intent was to revisit it once again on a grander scale in order to bring in the new as well as touching upon many of the characters that populate his universe.

While past stories have focused on the 999 route, Galaxy Railways takes a larger view of things from the Space Defense Force that monitors all the rails that they know about and provide for protection of those lines, stations and personnel. We’re introduced to Wataru Yuuki, the captain of the Sirius Patrol of the Galaxy Railways Corporation. He and his team are one of the specialists of the service that handles problems and attacks on the lines and they're called up quickly when the show kicks off. It and the second episode mix time periods to show him at home with his two sons, Manabu and Mamoru. The two of them manage to sneak onto the train, accidentally, when their father is called to the stars once again to help out. They love seeing their father in action but the events unfold in such a critical manner that they instead are witness to his death.

So a few years later when Mamoru is old enough, he joins up with the force and a similar fate awaits him. His mother is devastated but she lives on and keeps up hope for a better future. But this seems stolen from her when six years after her husbands death, Manabu reveals that he's applied to the Space Defense Force as well and is going against her wishes. She's so against it that she disowns him as a son and refuses to speak to him when he leaves. Manabu's foray into space to become a member of the force that ruined his family is done in order to honor his father and brother's memories but also to find his place in the galaxy, to let his spirit soar as he father told him he should.

Once into this aspect of the storyline, the show is a fair bit more episodic as we're introduced to other cast members. He meets Louis along the way, an attractive younger woman who has joined with him and is also a member of the Sirius Patrol. His fathers former lieutenant is now the captain of Big One, the train that the Sirius Patrol uses. Manabu finds himself being assigned to work with Bruce but it's a troubling relationship as Bruce is very much against Manabu being there for whatever reasons he's there and doesn't want to work with he rookie. Louis makes out better with her partner and the cast is filled out with an attractive medical officer who has a truly beautiful fanservice moment when she takes off her stockings and puts on a short skirt.

The appeal of a series like this is that it's taking an expanded look at the Matsumoto universe through new characters but characters that are of course quite familiar to long term fans of his works. Getting to see new lines and trains across the systems as well as some of the neat supernatural aspects such as the ghost train in one episode, we're moving away from the more traditional pieces that focus on the saving the universe aspect, at least for now, and taking a tour of what makes up the galaxy. There are plenty of hints along the way of larger things to come but for the most part the first five episodes do a good job of setting up the basics of what the Galaxy Railways Corporation is, how the rescue teams work and getting a good feel for the main cast of characters.

Much like a number of recent shows from Matsumoto's works that have come over, I find this one to be just as appealing. The character designs may not work for some people but there's just something really attractive about them at times and how different they are from the "standard" look so many series carry. I'll even go so far as to say that with the smoother lines and digital coloring, a lot of the female characters are just so incredibly sexy looking, be they simple like Louis or otherworldly like the Supreme Commander. The men are men and the women are women and while the two do meet on occasion, they are simply striking across the board.

As happy as I am with this release there are some things I really don't like. The complete lack of the Japanese cast is extremely bothersome and not something that should be a problem these days. Not including this just feels like a slap to the original actors and to people like myself who thrive on placing voices and like to follow careers as they go along. The other problem I have is one that's a problem on a lot of FUNimation releases and it continues to be the lockout problem at the start of the disc. What's made it worse over the last year is that since they produce trailers for each new volume of a series, they can essentially be spoilers for people. My wife hadn't seen Fullmetal Alchemist's third volume yet but here's the preview for the fourth volume which spoilers parts of the third – and you cannot skip over it. No fast forwarding, no skipping and my deck doesn't have the "top" button that supposedly allows it to be bypassed. I'm generally very pleased with FUNimation releases but the start of each volume has this and it always just pisses me off. Not the best way to start a new show or any show.

In Summary:
As more of Matsumoto's works come out I find myself falling in love with his style all the more. Galaxy Railways looks to work an angle of connecting a lot of his properties together which should be fun to see. The opening volume introduces a lot of material overall in the first five episodes but it does it at just the right pace and through the right characters. It's got plenty of action, some neat science fiction and a bunch of unexplainable moments that you just short of chuckle at and move on. With its classic feel, this is easily a highlight release for me and something that I can't wait to get more of.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles, Interview with Leiji Matsumoto, Japanese Dub Recording Session Video,Title announcement press conference,Character profiles,Textless opening,Textless ending

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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